How the Phillies and GM Ruben Amaro blew it over the winter

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OK, yeah, they should have kept Cliff Lee, too. But this is about the offense.
The Phillies have received excellent work from Roy Halladay, yet nearly halfway through 2010, they’re a mere six games over .500 and in third place in the NL East. The postseason is still very much within reach, yet the road just got a little more difficult Tuesday, with word that both Chase Utley and Placido Polanco would require DL stints.
Filling in at second and third will be Juan Castro, Greg Dobbs, Wilson Valdez and Brian Bocock.
No, it’s not a stellar group.
Castro – 597 career OPS, 492 in 113 AB in 2010
Dobbs – 723 career OPS, 465 in 66 AB in 2010
Valdez – 581 career OPS, 624 in 127 AB in 2010
Bocock – 414 career OPS, 470 in 212 AB in Triple-A in 2010
Of course, there’s not a team in baseball that can lose someone like Utley and merely shake it off. But the Phillies were especially ill-prepared for infield injuries this year and they’ve had the misfortune of having their second baseman, third baseman and shortstop all land on the disabled list.
GM Ruben Amaro Jr. deserves a lot of the blame for the ugly situation. Going into the winter, he had nine of his 13 position spots accounted for. Then he did this:
Nov. 24 – Signed Castro to a one-year, $750,000 contract with a club option for 2011
Dec. 1 – Signed Brian Schneider to a two-year, $2.75 million contract
Dec. 3 – Signed Polanco to a three-year, $18 million contract
Dec. 8 – Agreed with Ross Gload on a two-year, $2.6 million contract
And that was it. Barely a month after the World Series was in the books, the Phillies’ position roster was completely settled, barring injuries.
Amaro completely ignored the trends established the previous winter. He overspent to bring in players early and gave unnecessary multiyear deals to bench players.
Just as bad, he gave minor league free agents absolutely no reason to consider the Phillies. It should have been an attractive situation for veteran Triple-A players, given the Phillies’ status as a World Series contender and their lack of position player depth in the upper minors. But since there wasn’t even going to be a hint of competition for bench spots in spring training, the players went elsewhere.
Which is why they’re left with Valdez and Bocock.

Mike Trout has a torn thumb ligament, could require surgery

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Yesterday Mike Trout left the Marlins-Angels game after hurting his thumb while sliding head first into second base. After the game the Angels talked about it as if it were just a sprain. Trout had an MRI today, however, and the diagnosis is far worse: he has a torn thumb ligament.

While a treatment option has not yet been chosen, surgery is a possibility. A certainty is that he’ll miss, at the very least, several weeks of play. He has been placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Trout, the reigning AL MVP and, without question, the best player in baseball, is batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances this season. Even with the one of the weaker supporting casts in baseball, Trout had the Angels near .500 and in at least arguable contention in the AL West.

Without him, they are likely sunk. Without him, baseball is worse off.

Basebrawl! Harper, Strickland punch away, Nats-Giants fight

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SAN FRANCISCO — Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland both landed punches to the head during a wild brawl that erupted Monday after a hit by pitch.

Harper was hit in the right hip by Strickland’s 98 mph fastball in the eighth inning with Washington ahead 2-0.

Harper pointed the bat toward Strickland, charged the mound and fired his batting helmet wide of the pitcher. They started to swing away and they each connected as the benches and bullpens emptied.

At least two Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the brawl all the way into the dugout. Harper and Strickland were both ejected.

In the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland. After the star’s second shot, in Game 4, he stared at Strickland as he rounded the bases.